Sunday, 25 April 2010

Happy Empire Day, Anzacs

In Red Coat Dreaming art, artefacts and life stories combine to evoke a period when the British army was also Australia’s army.

From the first British settlement to the First World War, some Australians were indifferent to and even disdainful of the military force that fomented the Rum Rebellion and shot down gold miners at Eureka. Yet many were proud of the British army’s achievements on battlefields far from Australia. Hundreds of Australians enlisted in the army or married its officers and rankers; thousands had served in it before settling in Australia, and hundreds of thousands barracked when the army went to war.

Red Coat Dreaming challenges our understanding of Australia’s military history and the primacy of the Anzac legend. It shows how few Australians were immune to the allure and historic associations of the red coat, the British army’s sartorial signature, and leaves readers thinking differently about Australia’s identity and experience of war.


Friday, 23 April 2010

Communiques to the brigades of the past, issued from the brigades to come...histories of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism movements

"We are cozy cuddly/armed and dangerous/and we will/raze the fucking prisons/to the ground." In an attempt to deliver on this promise, the George Jackson Brigade launched a violent three-year campaign in the mid-1970s against corporate and state institutions in the Pacific Northwest. This campaign, conceived by a group of blacks and whites, both straight and gay, claimed fourteen bombings, as many bank robberies, and a jailbreak. Drawing on extensive interviews with surviving members of the George Jackson Brigade, Guerrilla USA provides an inside-out perspective on the social movements of the 1970s, revealing the whole era in a new and more complex light. It is also a compelling exploration of the true nature of crime and a provocative meditation on the tension between self-restraint and anger in the process of social change.

Guerrilla USA: The George Jackson Brigade and the Anticapitalist Underground of the 1970s
Daniel Burton-Rose

"One of the first organizations of gay prisoners was founded in 1977 at the Washington state penitentiary at Walla Walla. Initiated by members of the George
Jackson Brigade, a revolutionary guerrilla organization active in the Pacific North- west in the mid-1970s convicted for several small bombings and bank heists, the group worked to protect gay and other vulnerable inmates from sexual harassment and violence. Members met the “chain” (the bus on which new inmates were transferred to the prison) each week and provided orientation to new prisoners to tutor them in the complexities of prison etiquette and warn them of prison dangers. They also worked to secure 'safe cells' and provided escort services for 'those men most likely to be raped, sold, pimped, and preyed upon in the sexual meat market condoned by the administration.' Gay prisoners at Walla Walla boasted some remarkable successes. 'The other day two prisoners ‘sold’ a gay cellmate to another prisoner,' one prisoner wrote. 'We moved into the situation and smashed the deal. The ‘property’ was moved into one of our cells and is under our escort.' They also worked to release gay prisoners from protective custody and helped integrate them safely into the general population.

"The name that Walla Walla prisoners chose for their organization, Men against Sexism, articulated an analysis of prison sexual violence comprehensible to gay and lesbian activists and fully compatible with the ideological foundations of gay liberationist thought. In working toward an analysis of gay oppression, lesbians and gay men looked to sexism as a root cause, indicting in particular the patriarchal values, normative gender roles, and institutionalized heterosexuality nurtured and policed by the nuclear family. Gay Liberation Front activist Martha Shelley ident- ified gay men and lesbians as 'women and men who, from the time of our earliest mem- ories,have been in revolt against the sex-role structure and nuclear family struc- ture.' It was perhaps not surprising that lesbians would be drawn to radical
feminism for analyses of their oppression. But gay male activists also located their
oppression in the nuclear family’s enforcement of normative masculinity. 'Gay liberation is a struggle against sexism,' Allen Young announced. 'Within the context
of our society, sexism is primarily manifested through male supremacy and heterosexual chauvinism.'

"Those critiques inspired Walla Walla’s Men against Sexism, whose members challenged the hypermasculinist prison ethos they viewed as contributing to sexual violence. Prisoners who called on feminist analyses of sexism in order to understand prison oppressions were readily comprehensible to gay activists outside. The language of gay oppression and pride used more generally by many other incarcerated activists resonated with and echoed the language used by activists outside."

"Lessons in Being Gay: Queer Encounters in Gay and Lesbian Prison Activism"
by Regina Kunzel
Radical History Review Issue 100 (Winter 2008)

Bursting into existence in the Pacific Northwest in 1975, the George Jackson Brigade claimed 14 pipe bombings against corporate and state targets, as many bank robberies, and the daring rescue of a jailed member. Combining veterans of the prisoners' women’s, gay, and black liberation movements, this organization was also ideologically diverse, consisting of both communists and anarchists. Concomitant with the Brigade's extensive armed work were prolific public communications. In more than a dozen communiqués and a substantial political statement, they sought to explain their intentions to the public while defying the law enforcement agencies that pursued them.

Collected in one volume for the first time, Creating a Movement with Teeth makes available this body of propaganda and mediations on praxis. In addition, the collection assembles corporate media profiles of the organization’s members and alternative press articles in which partisans thrash out the heated debates sparked in the progressive community by the eruption of an armed group in their midst. Creating a Movement with Teeth illuminates a forgotten chapter of the radical social movements of the 1970s in which diverse interests combined forces in a potent rejection of business as usual in the United States.

Creating a Movement with Teeth: A Documentary History of the George Jackson Brigade
Edited by Daniel Burton-Rose with Preface by Ward Churchill

Between 1970 and 1972, the Angry Brigade used guns and bombs in a series of symbolic attacks against property. A series of communiqués accompanied the actions, explaining the choice of targets and the Angry Brigade philosophy: autonomous organization and attacks on property alongside other forms of militant working class action. Targets included the embassies of repressive regimes, police stations and army barracks, boutiques and factories, government departments and the homes of Cabinet ministers, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. These attacks on the homes of senior political figures increased the pressure for results and brought an avalanche of police raids. From the start the police were faced with the difficulty of getting to grips with a section of society they found totally alien. And were they facing an organization—or an idea?

This book covers the roots of the Angry Brigade in the revolutionary ferment of the 1960s, and follows their campaign and the police investigation to its culmination in the “Stoke Newington 8” conspiracy trial at the Old Bailey—the longest criminal trial in British legal history. Written after extensive research—among both the libertarian opposition and the police—it remains the essential study of Britain's first urban guerilla group.

The Angry Brigade: A History of Britain's First Urban Guerilla Group
Gordon Carr (with prefaces by John Barker and Stuart Christie)

The first in a two-volume series, this is by far the most in-depth political history of the Red Army Faction ever made available in English.

Projectiles for the People starts its story in the days following World War II, showing how American imperialism worked hand in glove with the old pro-Nazi ruling class, shaping West Germany into an authoritarian anti-communist bulwark and launching pad for its aggression against Third World nations. The volume also recounts the opposition that emerged from intellectuals, communists, independent leftists, and then – explosively – the radical student movement and countercultural revolt of the 1960s.

It was from this revolt that the Red Army Faction emerged, an underground organization devoted to carrying out armed attacks within the Federal Republic of Germany, in the view of establishing a tradition of illegal, guerilla resistance to imperialism and state repression. Through its bombs and manifestos the RAF confronted the state with opposition at a level many activists today might find difficult to imagine.

For the first time ever in English, this volume presents all of the manifestos and communiqués issued by the RAF between 1970 and 1977, from Andreas Baader’s prison break, through the 1972 May Offensive and the 1975 hostage-taking in Stockholm, to the desperate, and tragic, events of the “German Autumn” of 1977. The RAF’s three main manifestos – The Urban Guerilla Concept, Serve the People, and Black September – are included, as are important interviews with Spiegel and le Monde Diplomatique, and a number of communiqués and court statements explaining their actions.

Providing the background information that readers will require to understand the context in which these events occurred, separate thematic sections deal with the 1976 murder of Ulrike Meinhof in prison, the 1977 Stammheim murders, the extensive use of psychological operations and false-flag attacks to discredit the guerilla, the state’s use of sensory deprivation torture and isolation wings, and the prisoners’ resistance to this, through which they inspired their own supporters and others on the left to take the plunge into revolutionary action.

Drawing on both mainstream and movement sources, this book is intended as a contribution to the comrades of today – and to the comrades of tomorrow – both as testimony to those who struggled before and as an explanation as to how they saw the world, why they made the choices they made, and the price they were made to pay for having done so.

The Red Army Faction, A Documentary History - Volume 1: Projectiles For the People
Edited by J. Smith and André Moncourt
Forewords by Russell "Maroon" Shoats and Bill Dunne

Monday, 19 April 2010

Towing Jehovah and other spellbinding tales

I don't have an image I can use to illustrate James Morrow's Godhead Trilogy. So I'm going to settle on a surreal Japanese image instead that I really like in its own right. So there! Come to think of it, this Japanese giant probably wouldn't be out of place in Blameless in Abaddon. I'm very keen to follow up on Morrow some more as he is a science fiction writer who is willing to go out on a limb about current debates in the biological sciences, and how and if theology should feature.

I have to log off now so I'll leave you with these summations of the Godhead series:

Towing Jehovah (1994) in which the corpse of God, a two-mile long white male with a grey beard, as he has often been depicted) is discovered floating in the Atlantic Ocean. The captain of a supertanker is dispatched by the Vatican on a secret mission to tow the Divine Corpse to a tomb carved out of the Arctic ice. A group of atheist extremists plan on destroying the body, as although God is dead, his corpse proves that they were wrong and he existed at some point in time. An extended subplot deals with the evolution of a character's views on ethics and morality as he faces the idea of a post-theistic world. Towing Jehovah won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1995.[2]; was nominated for a Nebula Award in 1994[3]; and received Hugo, Clarke, and Locus Fantasy Award nominations in 1995.[4]
  • Blameless in Abaddon (1996), in which God's body is now part of a religious theme park. A small-town magistrate, who has suffered many personal troubles, including the death of his wife and prostate cancer, decides to literally put God on trial for crimes against humanity. God's defense lawyer is a parody of C. S. Lewis. Other biblical figures including Satan and Jesus Christ appear in this book. "Abaddon" is a small fictional township in Pennsylvania and an obscure Biblical word for Hell.
  • The Eternal Footman (1999), in which the absence of God, save for his skull orbiting the Earth, results in a plague of death-awareness. The Eternal Footman was nominated for a Locus Fantasy Award in 1997.[5

When life is but disappointment, and nothing seems amusing...

...we struggle to find the joy that life is haunted by/but what ends when the symbols shatter? What happens to hearts?

I'm aware how there is a very real fear in our culture of how the social death can precede the physical death. Loss of employment or retirement loom large for many men, and suicide or the development of addictive behavioural patterns can be reactions to the loss of public recognition, and hence personal identity. There are other management techniques of course: how else to explain the seeking of refuge in spaces that are deliberately furnished to appear as non-domestic (i.e. non feminine) as possible? Think of the strictly utilitarian, as opposed to decorative, stools etc in your typical pub or workshed, for example. Many rural communities in Australia have taken this onboard to the point of establishing The Men's Shed on a permanent basis, as a place where some men, who would otherwise be at a loose end, can gather free of charge to use hardware on assorted building projects, thereby circumventing any excessive need to carouse, gamble, fuck or fight...each of which may be symptomatic of boredom and depression. It goes without saying that some effort is also expended to promote suicide prevention initiatives.

It's like my mother has always told me: "many women get used to invisibility fairly early in their lives, while more than a few men struggle to accept not always getting a parade". I hope this is changing over time. I'm able to recognise this palpable sense of dread from the perspective of the female character in the opening sequence of Safe that I've posted here: the mobile privatisation of the car winding its way through the dark labyrinth of suburbia to the accompaniment of an eerie synth score. Julianne Moore's character is basically swallowed by space. But I also get what my mum was trying to tell me: Age eventually unmaketh the man too. To drive the point home further, just look at how no one has yet written the white male middleclass equivalent of Betty Friedan's pioneering feminist work, The Feminine Mystique.

Other than Douglas P, whose lyrics I've quoted, perhaps it is not surprising how more forthcoming the New Queer Cinema has been about some of these dilemmas. I've decided to put up here some of my favourite scenes from movies by Todd Haynes and Gus Van Sant that capture entrapment, abjection and invisibility particularly well. John Hurt's character in Love and Death in Long Island is a case in point of someone who is reawakened by finding something beautiful where he least expected to find it. Many people can relate to this as this is surely part of the appeal of falling in love: a form of contingency that reminds you how life still has hitherto unknown possibilities, sometimes even for the most lowly, unappreciated self, who otherwise holds out few prospects for redemption. This brings my mind back to lyrics. Sadly, either possibility was ultimately too overwhelming for poor old Ian Curtis to handle, and he detailed this struggle in almost every song he ever wrote. For example, who can forget that Joy Division's debut album was called Unknown Pleasures, and what about this line too from the song "Twenty Four Hours" featured on Closer, "I never realised the lengths I'd have to go/all the darkest corners of a sense I didn't know/just for one moment I heard somebody call/look beyond the day at hand/there's nothing there at all".

You know it's strange, I started thinking about this stuff last night as I was watching the new series of Doctor Who. I'm sure many people dream of having the Doctor's lifestyle: just like a cowboy, he is a free agent who can travel but still periodically enter communities to perform good works, before departing again. Nirgal was similar in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series: he was a loner, but he wasn't a hermit. I find much to agree with too in Houellebecq's observation (in his Lovecraft book) that people who like to read and write are generally not that enthused about life in other respects.

These proclivities can be distinguished from the extremes I've posted here. I'm someone who likes pathos, and there is plenty to be found in the clips which follow. But I'll also never forget the guy at university who could only [read: exclusively] listen to Closer, who worked as a toolmaker. His other obsession was the tragic life of Jean Seberg. What I look back on most of all though is the stories he used to tell about growing up and the people he had encountered at work. So I'll recount my personal favourite about his working life: he had a workmate who used to get up early every morning to read Proust ("struggling to find the joy" perhaps). Anyway, one morning the workmate was talking continuously about the dilemmas faced by Raskolnikov (i.e. the anti-hero of Dostoyevsky's novel, Crime and Punishment). He disappeared into the bathroom at lunchtime, eventually re-emerging with a shaved head. His scalp was bleeding profusely as he'd used a very crude razor. Everyone just stood there in silence, uncertain how to react. What would be his next move? The man placed one of the workstools on the bench and sat himself down: "Now that I've got your attention, let me ask again: does anyone remember Raskolnikov?" Why be so demonstrative to try to get across a point? I won't pretend to understand, and suspect I'm not alone in that respect. So you might reasonably expect that psychiatric treatment would follow and this man would be certified as unfit for work, but according to my friend, that is not what happened. Perhaps these struggles are more common afterall than many of us realise, and people are sometimes able to find ways to manage their suffering more effectively than they're usually given credit for by so-called "experts" in mental health?

That's a pretty important point, so permit me to say something more about it. I don't claim any sort of superiority here because I've always preferred to think in terms of an anecdote Lacan related. A specialist in "ego psychology" informed him that she felt she was a good therapist thanks to her "strong personality". Lacan confessed that he felt the exact opposite: it was because he could empathise so closely with his patients' distress that he was able to treat them. In a manner of speaking, "there but for the grace of God go I".

Seeing I've posted the opening of Last Days here, it is fitting to close this post with lyrics by a band from the days of Seattle's grunge scene: the song is called "The Birds", and the band is Skin Yard. It's such a great summation that there is little I can add. It's worth watching the rest of the film too as there is another great scene of a door to door salesman meeting Blake at his isolated mansion. Blake is preoccupied by his own problems to the point he can barely communicate. To his credit, the salesman is not fazed by Blake's demeanor, or his disheveled appearance (Blake is also wearing women's clothing at the time).

I'm sitting in a rather small room
My walls have nothing to say
I memorize every hole
Squinting eyes all day

Fold me up and bring me home
With the night I cannot stay!

Violence surrounds my house
I'm a loco loser
Springing the noose, stay rather far

I rest from the fact
The birds cover trees on my side
Violence surrounds my house
So I sit on the side
These birds are mine, together
The friends of your blood
I smile, then divide
The birds all take mine

Fold me up and bring me home
No I will not stay
These birds surround my house
I cannot stay

I'm sitting in a rather small room
My walls have nothing to say
I memorize every hole
Squinting eyes all day

Resting from the fact the birds
The birds cover the trees, my side
Violence surrounds my house
So I sit on the side

These birds
My mind
They fly

On the side I hide my eyes
Stole my mind
I feel my flight

The milkman passes through today, on his way
He's bringing home the noose of mine
The birds are his tree
I'm sitting in a rather small room
My eyes of nothing left to say
I can remember a time I was
As pretty as the day!

Friday, 16 April 2010

In Pursuit of Knowledge

Listening to Frank Donoghue's comments inspired me to look up this book by Deborah L. Rhode, which claims that only 2% of published humanities articles are ever cited by other scholars. The disparity inspired Donoghue (follow the "related videos" link in the clip I posted earlier today) to argue that conferences are a much better forum for exchanging ideas.

Here is the description of Rhode's book:

"Although academics have never lacked for critics, publications on the profession tend to be either popularized polemics, which are engaging but misleading, or scholarly analyses, which are intellectually responsible but of little interest to anyone but specialists. In Pursuit of Knowledge offers an alternative: a unique portrait of academic life that should appeal to both experts and a general audience.

Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, including higher education, history, law, sociology, economics, and literature, the book focuses on the ways in which the pursuit of status has undermined the pursuit of knowledge. Deborah Rhode argues that both individual scholars and institutions in higher education are caught in an arms race of reputation. The result has been to skew priorities in scholarship, erode commitments to teaching, compromise efforts of public intellectuals, and impede effectiveness in administration.

The book offers several solutions to counter these pervasive problems in our research institutions. Rhode makes a case for increasing accountability and realigning reward systems. She argues that what is needed is a greater sense of responsibility among universities and their faculties to narrow the gap between academic ideals and practices.

In Pursuit of Knowledge is meticulously researched and elegantly written. It is also exceptionally entertaining in its use of quotations culled from over a hundred academic novels, including works by Kingsley Amis, Saul Bellow, David Lodge, and C.P. Snow. (For example, from P.G. Wodehouse's The Girl in Blue, “The Agee woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required.”) The result is a highly readable but also deeply reflective analysis of the academic profession".

The Last Professors

The Last Professors is equally scathing on the hypocrisy of our disavowed competitiveness. But wait: the People’s Republic of the Humanities, competitive? Donoghue puts it a little more gently, discerning “a collective behaviour that ironically duplicates the very corporate values from which we humanists wish to distance ourselves” (26). Exhibit A: graduate school, which picks the best and brightest and then drives them to despair by demanding superlative performance in “a unique kind of competition in which the stakes are extremely high and the rules are never fully explained” (33). Exhibit B is the job market, typically experienced as “an intense personal drama about individual distinction and merit” (37). Exhibit C: the still-hallowed monograph, unpurchased, unborrowed, unread, and unassailable. In all of these cases, we define success in impossible terms. And I use the first person here deliberately: there is no “they” doing this to us. Don’t believe me? Try striking up a conversation at the next academic meeting with, “We should forget about writing monographs.” It is hard not to agree with Donoghue that our research models are “clearly broken” (55).

Here and here for further details.

Thanks for the links Derridata. Have you read this yet?:

"Student rebellion is therefore deep-seated, with the prospect of debt slavery being compounded by a future of insecurity and a sense of alienation from an institution perceived to be mercenary and bureaucratic that, in the bargain, produces a commodity subject to rapid devaluation".

From the same piece:

"In the corporatised university students now confront capital directly, in the crowded classrooms where teachers can hardly match names on the rosters with faces, in the expansion of adjunct teaching and, above all, in the mounting student debt which, by turning students into indentured servants to the banks and/or state, acts as a disciplinary mechanism on student life, also casting a long shadow on their future".

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Nature of Terrible Sacrifice: Gladio & The Grey Wolves

Roger Griffin discusses the Grey Wolves in The Nature of Fascism. I've started reading about their infiltration of Turkish migrant communities, and wonder about possible bearing on Turkey's accession to EU membership. The question is complicated by the parallel [sic] existence of Gladio as a secretive NATO sponsored network of "stay behind" armies, utilizing a "strategy of tension". Mhuthnance, given your expertise on paramilitary groups, you'll be interested, without of course succumbing to conspiracy theorizing, as the Wiki link cites usage of a comparable strategy in relation to the Oklahoma City Bombing in its footnotes (be sure to read as well the separate entry on The Grey Wolves).

Anton did not pick up on any parallels in his article on martial industrial music and the fatalistic sense of neofascists living in the interregnum, so I can only speculate about the extent to which their networks have taken inspiration from actual paramilitary cells (this heavily qualifies any sense of living in an interregnum as Gladio have apparently been quite active, even if stopped short from full realisation of the new fascist order martial industrialists/traditionalists like to fantasise about). Note too that said article failed to mention the controversy surrounding publication of the Battlenoises! book (which lead to its withdrawal from publication)- its inclusion could have better demonstrated the scene's internal divisions, rather than relying on close readings of lyrics and album artwork alone. Of course, there's already a group of noise musicians calling themselves The Grey Wolves (and they do use some irony in their work), so how long can it be until some other martial industrialist/noise/neofolk/black metal artist(s) decides to name themselves Gladio?

This is not a trivial question, if we appreciate how the politics of representation can legitimate something that is very dangerous, be it intentional or not.

Another question to ponder: was a similar "strategy of tension" in operation in post World War 2 Japan? I don't know, so I think further investigation is warranted. I do know though that the ongoing existence of Gladio remains hotly contested, while the Grey Wolves maintain an active presence in Turkey (and possibly amongst the Turkish diaspora as well).

Given this blog's interest in the cultural significance of Nature, I should also note here the symbolic role of the wolf as an ancient European symbol of loyalty and protection and religious veneration: the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus were supposed to have been rescued and suckled by a she Wolf. Respect for the Wolf is firmly enshrined in the European 'tradition' (or rather, at least for European traditionalists). Hitler, for example, drew on this legacy, referring to himself as Herr Wolf, and his Eastern Front military HQ was called Wolfsschanze ("Wolf's Lair").

You might also recall that the Blood Axis album, Blot: Sacrifice in Sweden, is replete with the sounds of howling wolves to connote its traditionalist 'pagan' atmospherics of the communal feasts (the 'blots'), where participants would be sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice (usually consisting of cattle, as human sacrifice was a comparative rarity). Adam of Bremen gives a graphic description of one such mass human sacrifice, which is quoted at length here (see page 129) by Daniel Bray in an academic article that further attempts to explain sacrificial ideology. This is precisely the kind of ideology one would expect radical traditionalists- from paramilitaries to martial industrialists/neofolk enthusiasts- to subscribe to, insofar as they believe that present conditions oblige them to operate as clandestine, warrior-like "lone wolves". Indeed, the opening track prominently features a radio broadcast by Black Shirt leader Oswald Mosley extolling the sacrifices required to ensure "a spiritual revolution of our people".

To be sure, there can be considerable variation in the means chosen to respond to individual circumstances (i.e. what a sacrifice may consist of), but this should not cause us to lose sight of the commonalities. Updating Bray, it could even be said that the thoughts and actions of radical traditionalists can each in their own way be understood as "not so much about the purpose of the ritual, as [they are] about a ritual to crystallise the operant's purpose and to make that purpose effectual in the world". Tradition evolves along with everything else in the world, and this remains the paradox that traditionalism continues to wrestle with, sometimes violently so. No amount of pre-Darwinian privileging of animal kinship, be it wolves or anything else, can overcome this basic fact.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Is xenobiology becoming a reality?

One of the goals in synthetic biology is to design an orthogonal chromosome different from DNA and RNA, termed XNA for xeno nucleic acids. Xenobiological systems like XNA are ‘‘invisible’’ to natural biological systems, which means they could be the ultimate biosafety tool.

Read more about it in the recently published Open Access Paper:
Schmidt M. 2010. Xenobiology: A new form of life as the ultimate biosafety tool. BioEssays Vol.32(4): 322-331

For further information see also:

Synbiosafe Trailer from Camillo on Vimeo.

You can guess that I just couldn't resist moving to this topic after referring to the xenomorphs from the Alien series in the previous post. In this case engineering dictates that, unlike the science fiction, there is no evolution through interaction (i.e. using other lifeforms as "hosts") with the "natural" environment. But what to make of this piece of understatement from Schmidt's article?: "is it necessary to prohibit any activities that actively try to undermine the specifications mentioned above? i.e. similar to prohibiting R & D that aims at developing new offensive bioweapons?" Gee Markus, what do you think? Why the rhetorical stance? Cat got your tongue?

Make no mistake about it then, this debate will assume increasing importance. If the precautionary principle of post-normal science prominently features at this stage, how difficult will it be to maintain given the amounts of money needed to fund it into the future? Compromises might be introduced sooner than we would like (a potential for military applications will be only one facet of this). "Bring on more debate", is what I say.

Synthetic Biology

the technoscience and its societal consequences

Schmidt, M.; Kelle, A.; Ganguli-Mitra, A.; Vriend, H. (Eds.)

2010, VIII, 186 p., Hardcover

ISBN: 978-90-481-2677-4

Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days

119,95 €
  • About this book

Synthetic biology is becoming one of the most dynamic new fields of biology, with the potential to revolutionize the way we do biotechnology today. By applying the toolbox of engineering disciplines to biology, a whole set of potential applications become possible ranging very widely across scientific and engineering disciplines. Some of the potential benefits of synthetic biology, such as the development of low-cost drugs or the production of chemicals and energy by engineered bacteria are enormous. There are, however, also potential and perceived risks due to deliberate or accidental damage. Also, ethical issues of synthetic biology just start being explored, with hardly any ethicists specifically focusing on the area of synthetic biology. This book will be the first of its kind focusing particularly on the safety, security and ethical concerns and other relevant societal aspects of this new emerging field. The foreseen impact of this book will be to stimulate a debate on these societal issues at an early stage. Past experiences, especially in the field of GM-crops and stem cells, have shown the importance of an early societal debate. The community and informed stakeholders recognize this need, but up to now discussions are fragmentary. This book will be the first comprehensive overview on relevant societal issues of synthetic biology, setting the scene for further important discussions within the scientific community and with civil society.

Content Level » Research

Related subjects » Biomedical Sciences - Biotechnology - Medicine - Production & Process Engineering - R&D / Technology Policy

Table of Contents

1. Introduction, Markus Schmidt; 2. That Was the Synthetic Biology That Was, Luis Campos; 3. An Introduction to Synthetic Biology, Carolyn M.C. Lam, Miguel Godinho, Vítor A.P. Martins dos Santos; 4. Computational Design in Synthetic Biology, Maria Suarez, Guillermo Rodrigo, Javier Carrera, Alfonso Jaramillo; 5. The Ethics of Synthetic Biology, Anna Deplazes, Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra, Nikola Biller-Andorno; 6. Do I understand what I can create?, Markus Schmidt; 7. Security Issues Related to Synthetic Biology, Alexander Kelle; 8. The Intellectual Commons and Property in Synthetic Biology, Kenneth A. Oye, Rachel Wellhausen; 9. Governing Synthetic Biology: processes and outcomes, Joyce Tait; 10. Synthetic Biology and the Role of Civil Society Organisatons, Dirk Stemerding, Huib de Vriend, Bart Walhout, Rinie van Est; 11. Summary and Calculations, Alexander Kelle; Index

Shadows moving in the woods.....

Work has been draining lately (dissertations, journal articles, a book etc), so to sustain myself I've been trying to follow up on as much music as I can in my [limited] spare time. I read a capsule review in The Wire (Adventures in Modern Music) of Pulse Emitter's Decaying Ships that just blew me away, so I know what to chase down next. According to the reviewer, the album 's soundscapes evoke a storm lashed, remote alien planet. In other words: Acheron. I am dying to hear this as soon as possible.

What else? Well I couldn't neglect to mention Brighter Death Now's Great Death trilogy. It originally surfaced in the mid 90's, but I'm only making its acquaintance now. There is some great material spread over the three discs, but the highlight for me is track 4 on disc 2, entitled "Moratorium". Given the prominent sample from The Evil Dead (a tape recording of an isolated researcher living in a cabin, "far from the groves of academe", reading from The Book of the Dead and then describing what he has resurrected, having initially noticed "shadows moving in the woods"), it's appropriate to mention in the same breath as Acheron, as Lovecraft's Necronomicon provides a common reference point. Death industrial is certainly not everyone's cup of tea by any means. What interests me most though is the conceptual crossovers with other forms of electronic music. I do have Pulse Emitter's Planetary Torture, so perhaps a comparison with Decaying Ships will not be too much of a stretch in a musical sense as well. Speculation only at this point, as I eagerly await confirmation!

The renowned Australian writer on occult matters, Nevill Drury, made an interesting documentary called The Occult Experience, which features H.R. Giger. I recommend watching it along with this interview with Dan O'Bannon which discusses, among other things, Lovecraft and Giger.